SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- 211 San Diego said an influx of new staff has helped lower hold times for vulnerable seniors seeking help booking COVID-19 vaccine appointments.
Since launching the service Jan. 22, the non-profit said it has fielded a record volume of calls, including 11,800 calls in a single day about vaccines and other information. 211 provides information on COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and an array of other community services.
The vaccine appointment service is only available to seniors 75 and up because of the huge call volume, said CEO William York. It’s also only for individuals seeking their first dose, not their second.
People who need help with their second dose should call the state’s COVID-19 hotline at 833-422-4255 (833-4CA-4ALL).
York said he hopes to expand the service to a larger age group in the near future.
“We're not quite there yet. We imagine it will be soon,” he said, adding that the next group offered access to appointment help will be adults 65 and over who don’t have internet access.
Judie Erickson, 78, said she called 211 several times during the first week of the service.
“The longest I’ve been on hold was three hours,” she said. While noting the agents were all very nice, she said each call ended with the same frustrating result: no appointments available.
Erickson isn’t alone. As of Wednesday, employees had fielded 9,667 calls from individuals seeking vaccine appointments. Agents were able to book 791 appointments.
211 employees have access to the same online appointment systems as the general public, York said.
“Ultimately after you spend that time -- it could be 15, 20, 25 minutes with someone -- the appointment might not be there,” he said.
211 offers a callback service so individuals do not have to spend long periods on hold. The average hold time since the start of the new service was five minutes, although wait times can vary on different days, said communications manager Quin La Capra.
York said the non-profit added 100 new employees this week and has seen results. On Wednesday, the 859 calls seeking a vaccine appointment were answered in an average of 26 seconds.
The rate of successfully booked appointments is also improving, York said. Twelve percent of the calls Wednesday yielded an appointment slot.
“As we continue to hone that process, we get those times shorter. As we add more teammates, those wait times become shorter. And our goal is to have the fastest, quickest answer possible,” York said.
After Erickson contacted ABC 10News, she said she received a flood of calls from friends and acquaintances offering to help. She was finally able to book a vaccination appointment for Friday afternoon with help from a friend, not 211.